GLENDALE, Ariz. (105.3 THE FAN) – All eyes were on America’s Team as they came to the sidelines just before kickoff at the University of Phoenix Stadium on Monday night.
After 105.3 The Fan’s Mike Fisher reported earlier Monday that the Cowboys were discussing how to make “a statement of unity” on Monday night, the Cowboys did so by locking arms as a team, along with the Jones family, and took a knee for a brief moment before the national anthem. The entire team and the Joneses then stood and walked back to the sideline and locked arms during the anthem.
According to Kristi Scales, the pregame kneel was in prayer for equality and unity, and purposely not during the anthem.
Following the Cowboys win over the Cardinals on Monday night, owner Jerry Jones and head coach Jason Garrett commented on the team’s decision to take a knee before the anthem.
“The biggest thing for us was to show support and to demonstrate, but do it in a way that didn’t involve the American flag and national anthem… everybody was behind that. And so, literally, it took us up until about an hour or so prior to the game to say okay, this is what the plan is. We want everybody together, we don’t want to be offensive to anyone, we don’t want to step on the Arizona Cardinals plan for what they had wanted to do,” Garrett said.
After the team knelt for a moment of silence, they returned to the sideline and “chose to lock arm and arm and be respectful of the flag and be respectful of the anthem and everything it represents,” Garrett added.
“The reason I’m particularly proud of this team is because we all agreed that our players wanted to make a statement about unity and wanted to make a statement about equality,” Jones said. “It was really easy for everyone in our organization to see that the message of unity and the message of equality was getting pushed aside and diminished by the controversy.”
Jones went on to say that the team alerted the NFL to what they had planned on doing prior to kickoff Monday night.
Cowboys fans on Monday night seemed to agree with what the team did. “I thought they did it right,” said Christina Vela. “You kneel before the anthem and then you stand during it. That’s a respectful way to handle it.”
“I thought it was good. It showed unity,” added fan David Garcia. “Everybody is sticking together. It’s a beautiful thing.”
President Donald Trump tweeted his reaction to the Cowboys on Tuesday morning, applauding the “great anger” that Arizona fans showed the team, but acknowledging that the team’s decision to stand for the anthem showed “big progress being made.”
The Cardinals had their own symbol of unity after a weekend of protests in the NFL, gathering along the goal line arm-in-arm during the national anthem. They were joined by owner Michael Bidwell, his family and general manager Steve Keim.
Rumors swirled on Monday about what the Cowboys “statement of unity” would entail after protests occurred throughout the NFL on Sunday, in the wake of Trump calling for the firing of NFL players who opt for a peaceful protest during the anthem.
Fisher spoke to seven Cowboys leaders on the subject prior to the game and came away with a handful of conclusions that the Cowboys — from owner Jerry Jones and his family to the players in the locker room — found important.
There were certainly those in the organization offended by Trump saying, “Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a b— off the field right now?’ Out! He’s fired. He’s fired!”
Those offended include some individuals who may have supported, and still support, the president.
According to Fisher, there were those who have sided with Colin Kaepernick from the start, in his efforts meant to bring attention to the institutionalized mistreatment of people of color, but at the same time, the Cowboys Leadership Council, made up of about 14 players, has long taken the position that “unity” and “positivity” are the themes that bond the football team… and themes that can bond beyond.
The leadership council, according to Fisher, understood where Jones stood on the matter when he previously commented on protesting in the NFL.
“I just feel so strongly that the act of recognizing the flag is a salute to our country and all of the people that have sacrificed so that we can have the liberties we have,” Jones told Shan and R.J. on 105.3 The Fan on August 22. “I feel very strongly that everyone should save that moment for the recognition of the flag in a positive way, so I like the way the Cowboys do it.”
Jones repeated that thought prior to the game on Monday night on the Cowboys pregame show on 105.3 The Fan. “I’m very pleased with how the Cowboys have done it the first two ballgames. I certainly liked the recognition that the Cowboys are very respectful to what the flag means. So all of that I’m very pleased with.”
That, in no way, should be construed as Jones having “ordered” his players to stand, or having issued an “or-else” edict. Jones clearly urged his players to use this moment to remain “respectful,” and it was made clear to Fisher that his players were comfortable with that as long as “unity” is still expressed.
Their “unity” was evident Mondy night when the Cowboys locked arms during the anthem.